Chamber Members:

So it begins – the House will begin this week to push through President Biden’s pandemic relief aid. An outlook runs below. Additionally, there is a snapshot of where things stand with the virus cases, vaccines, and its variants. Finally, a feel-good article on the possible economic boom in store as things progress which is a perfect lead in for our next virtual conference.

For those of you signed up to participate with us tomorrow and Mayor O’Dekirk on the State of the City Address, we’re unfortunately going to have to reschedule as Mayor O’Dekirk regrettably is now unable to be with us. We will have a new date as soon as possible. Thanks for your understanding.

*Daily Coronavirus update brought to you by Silver Cross Hospital

PPP Changes Announced to Benefit Small Businesses
Small businesses account for 44 percent of U.S. GDP, create two-thirds of net new jobs, and employ nearly half of America’s workers. Now, millions of main street small businesses –especially Black- and Brown-owned small businesses – are struggling to make ends meet in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic crisis.

The Biden-Harris administration has made delivering equitable relief to hard-hit small businesses a top priority. The latest round of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funding opened just one month ago and it represents a marked improvement on the prior round of the Program last year.

Compared to the same point in the Program last year:
• The share of funding going to small businesses with fewer than ten employees are up nearly 60 percent
• The share of funding going to small businesses in rural areas is up nearly 30 percent
• The share of funding distributed through Community Development Financial Institutions and Minority Depository Institutions is up more than 40 percent

The Biden-Harris administration is announcing several reforms to build on this success by further targeting the PPP to the smallest businesses and those that have been left behind in previous relief efforts. While these efforts are no substitute for passage of the American Rescue Plan, they will extend much-needed resources to help small businesses survive, reopen, and rebuild. Specifically, the Biden-Harris administration will:
• Institute a 14-day period, starting Wednesday, during which only businesses with fewer than 20 employees can apply for relief through the Program. 98 percent of small businesses have
fewer than 20 employees. They are Main Street businesses that anchor our neighborhoods and help families build wealth. And while the Biden-Harris administration has directed significantly more relief to these smallest businesses in this round of PPP than in the prior round, these businesses often struggle more than larger businesses to collect the necessary paperwork and secure relief from a lender. The 14-day exclusive application period will allow lenders to focus on serving these smallest businesses. The Biden-Harris administration will also make a sustained effort to work with lenders and small business owners to ensure small businesses take maximum advantage of this two-week window.

• Help sole proprietors, independent contractors, and self- employed individuals receive more financial support. These types of businesses, which include home repair contractors, beauticians, and small independent retailers, make up a significant majority of all businesses. Of these businesses, those without employees are 70 percent owned by women and people of color. Yet
many are structurally excluded from the PPP or were approved for as little as $1 because of how PPP loans are calculated. To address this problem, the Biden-Harris administration will revise the loan calculation formula for these applicants so that it offers more relief and establish a $1 billion set aside for businesses in this category without employees located in low- and moderate-income (LMI) areas.

• Consistent with a bipartisan bill, eliminate an exclusionary restriction that prevents small business owners with prior non-fraud felony convictions from obtaining relief through the Paycheck Protection Program. Currently, a business is ineligible for PPP if it is at least 20 percent owned by an individual who has either: (1) an arrest or conviction for a felony related to
financial assistance fraud within the previous five years; or (2) any other felony within the previous year. To expand access to PPP, the Biden-Harris administration will adopt bipartisan reforms included in the PPP Second Chance Act, co-sponsored by Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD), Rob Portman (R-OH), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and James Lankford (R-OK), which would eliminate the second restriction (the one-year look-back) unless the applicant or owner is incarcerated at the time of the application.

• Eliminate an exclusionary restriction that prevents small business owners who are delinquent on their federal student loans from obtaining relief through the Paycheck Protection Program. Currently, the PPP is not available to any business with at least 20 percent ownership by an individual who is currently delinquent or has defaulted within the last seven years on a federal debt, including a student loan. Millions of Americans are delinquent on student loans, including a disproportionate number of Black borrowers. Working with the Departments of the Treasury and Education, the SBA will remove the student loan delinquency restriction to broaden access to the PPP.

• Ensure access for non-citizen small business owners who are lawful U.S. residents by clarifying that they may use Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs) to apply for relief. The PPP statute is clear that all lawful U.S. residents may access the program, but a lack of guidance from the SBA has created inconsistency in access for ITIN holders like Green Card holders or those here on a visa. The SBA will address this unfair inconsistency by issuing clear guidance in the coming days that otherwise eligible applicants cannot be denied access to the PPP because they use ITINs to pay their taxes.

In addition to these five changes, the Biden-Harris administration has taken – and will continue to take – steps to ensure equitable distribution of relief that values each and every taxpayer dollar. These steps include:

• Addressing waste, fraud, and abuse across all federal programs. Unlike the previous round of the PPP, loan guaranty approval is now contingent on passing SBA fraud checks, Treasury’s
Do Not Pay database, and public records. The SBA now also conducts manual loan reviews for the largest loans in the PPP portfolio and a random sampling of other loans. The SBA has worked, and will continue to work, with its lender partners to create streamlined processes to resolve issues as quickly as possible, while still ensuring taxpayer dollars are spent wisely.

• Promoting transparency and accountability by improving the PPP loan application. To encourage self-reporting of demographic data and better illustrate the impact the PPP is having
across various population segments, the Biden-Harris administration has revamped the PPP application.

• Improving the Emergency Relief Digital Front Door. The Biden-Harris administration is working to update key areas of SBA websites to help more applicants find resources for understanding relief options and completing applications.

• Continuing to conduct extensive stakeholder outreach to learn more about challenges and opportunities in the implementation of current emergency relief programs. The President has spoken with several small businesses owners in recent weeks to understand their concerns about relief program. And as part of the Administration’s efforts to support America’s small businesses, especially those in LMI communities, the Vice President spoke last week with the CEOs of major banks, to highlight the critical period ahead, the vital role that lenders have to play during this time, and the Administration’s focus on PPP lending to underserved small
businesses. In recent weeks, the Vice President has also met virtually with small business owners and Black Chambers of Commerce to discuss the challenges that small businesses face right now, and how passing the American Rescue Plan will provide critical relief during a difficult period. At all levels and across agencies, the administration will continue to engage with communities to inform the design and delivery of vital programs that meet their needs.

• Enhancing the current lender engagement model. As part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to further improve access to capital for small businesses, the SBA is launching a new initiative to deepen its relationships with lenders. This model will increase opportunity for lenders to provide recommendations and ask questions about the PPP and drive resolution of open questions and concerns in a more streamlined way.

Current Coronavirus Status Report
Things have certainly changed and improved since the first of the year. As of today in Illinois, the preliminary seven-day statewide positivity for cases as a percent of total test from February 15–21, 2021 is 2.8%.  The preliminary seven-day statewide test positivity from February 15–21, 2021 is 3.1%. Locally, our region has hovered right around 4.5%.

A total of doses of 2,256,975 vaccine have been delivered to providers in Illinois, including Chicago.  In addition, approximately 445,200 doses total have been allocated to the federal government’s Pharmacy Partnership Program for long-term care facilities.  This brings the total Illinois doses to 2,702,175.  A total of 2,211,700 vaccines have been administered in Illinois as of last midnight, including 282,820 for long-term care facilities.

Unfortunately, the U.S. has surpassed 500,000 deaths from the coronavirus, even as case numbers trend downward and vaccination efforts proceed. The U.S. reached the half-million death milestone today, the highest of any country, a little more than a year after the first American is believed to have died from the virus.

The news comes as other trends in the U.S. are more hopeful, including cases dropping over 40 percent in the past two weeks and more than 70 percent since January, according to The New York Times. Daily positive tests are at their lowest rate since late October. Death rates are also beginning to slow. Hospitalizations have fallen over 50 percent since January, with a total of 62,000 reported around the country as of Thursday, according to the Times.

Nationwide, about 13.3% of people in the US have received at least one COVID-19 shot. About 5.9% of people have received both doses of the vaccine. Approximately 14.7% of the shots distributed haven’t been used yet. Here in Illinois, we’re slightly higher than the national average with 13.8% having at least received one shot and 4.5% of those being fully vaccinated. Distributed shots have hit an 80.5% usage rate, so we’re a little lower on this in regard to the national average.

COVID Relief Package on Track
House Democrats are planning to pass President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package by the end of this week, likely without the support of Republicans. The House Budget Committee met this afternoon to tee up the legislation for a floor vote on Friday or Saturday, which will then punt the action over to the Senate as early as next week.

Keep in mind that unemployment benefits expire March 14 so House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has to keep her caucus in line for the vote — if just a few moderates or progressives pull their support, the train falls off the tracks. Also keep in mind that the House version will not be the final version.

Monday’s markup is one of the last major House steps in the reconciliation process, but the final aid package sent to the president’s desk will likely change from the House-passed bill. That’s because Senate consideration will be laden with political minefields, and major provisions in the bill — such as its minimum wage hike or paid sick leave expansion — could be stripped out or reworked as Democrats in the upper chamber muddle through budget restrictions during floor debate.

Keep an eye out for the Senate parliamentarian ruling on whether parts of Biden’s plans run afoul of the so-called Byrd Rule, particularly as it relates to the federal minimum wage hike. The decision could come as early as Tuesday. If the parliamentarian says it is allowed, then the likelihood of the wage hike being included in the proposal jumps, but the question is, will it change the minds of Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.)? Both have already said they oppose the idea.

Biden has already signaled privately to governors that it likely isn’t happening as part of his first Covid aid push, while Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the Senate Budget Committee Chair, issued a statement over the weekend saying he was “confident” the Senate parliamentarian would rule that including the wage increase is OK.

Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC): Step by Step Instructions with a CPA
Wed., February 24, 2021 at 11 AM
Join this FREE webinar as Matt Evans, CPA, CMA, CFM, a frequent speaker who serves as a SCORE Mentor to small businesses, walks through the steps on how to take advantage of the ERTC.

Mr. Evans will cover:

  • How to determine eligibility
  • How to calculate the amount of credit
  • How to access the credit, and
  • Provide recommendations on how to best take advantage of the ERTC and the PPP loan programs.

With information rapidly changing, NFIB remains committed to providing up-to-date information and guidance on the different financial assistance options available to small businesses. After a short presentation, you’ll have the opportunity for Q&A. Participants will be able to ask questions in the chat box throughout the presentation, moderated by a member of NFIB’s COVID-19 team.

Register Here

Signs of Economic Life Are Picking Up and Cash is Waiting to be Spent
Forecasters have always expected the pandemic to be followed by a period of strong growth as businesses reopen and Americans resume their normal activities. But in recent weeks, economists have begun to talk of something stronger: a supercharged rebound that brings down unemployment, drives up wages and may foster years of stronger growth.

There are hints that the economy has turned a corner: Retail sales jumped last month as the latest round of government aid began showing up in consumers’ bank accounts. Economists surveyed by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia this month predicted that U.S. output will increase 4.5 percent this year, which would make it the best year since 1999. Some expect an even stronger bounce: Economists at Goldman Sachs forecast that the economy will grow 6.8 percent this year and that the unemployment rate will drop to 4.1 percent by December, a level that took eight years to achieve after the last recession.

The growing optimism stems from the confluence of several factors. Coronavirus cases are falling in the United States. The vaccine rollout, though slower than hoped, is gaining steam. And largely because of trillions of dollars in federal help, the economy appears to have made it through last year with less structural damage — in the form of business failures, home foreclosures and personal bankruptcies — than many people feared last spring.

Lastly, consumers are sitting on a trillion-dollar mountain of cash, a result of months of lockdown-induced saving and successive rounds of stimulus payments. That mountain could grow if Congress approves the aid to households that President Biden has proposed.

When the pandemic ends, cash could be unleashed like melting snow in the Rockies: Consumers, released from their cabin fever, compete for hotel rooms and restaurant tables. Businesses compete for employees and supplies to meet the demand. Workers who were sidelined by childcare responsibilities or virus fears are drawn back to the labor force by suddenly abundant opportunities.

“There will be this big boom as pent-up demand comes through and the economy is opening,” said Ellen Zentner, chief U.S. economist for Morgan Stanley. “There is an awful lot of buying power that we’ve transferred to households to fuel that pent-up demand.”

That vision is far from a certainty. Delays in the vaccine rollout could stall the recovery. So could new strains of the virus that render vaccines less effective. A political standoff in Washington could hold up aid for unemployed workers and struggling businesses. And even if the economy avoids all of those traps, there is unlikely to be a single moment when public health officials give an “all clear”; it could be years before people pack into bars and sports stadiums the way they did before the pandemic.

A boom also carries risks. In recent weeks, prominent economists including Lawrence H. Summers, a Treasury secretary under President Bill Clinton, have warned that Mr. Biden’s relief proposal is too large and could lead the economy to overheat, pushing up prices and forcing the Federal Reserve to bring the party to a premature end. Fed officials have largely dismissed those concerns, noting that the consistent problem in recent decades has been too little inflation rather than too much.

Other economists fear that the rebound will primarily benefit those at the top, compounding inequities that the pandemic has widened.

“We may see a boom in the future, but that may just leave some people even further behind or may give them a trickle when they need a waterfall,” said Tara Sinclair, a George Washington University economist.

Program Notices & Reminders
Upcoming Discussions with Illinois DCEO and SBA District Office

DCEO teams will host or sponsor more than 100 webinars held from now until the end of February. Webinars will cover technical assistance and questions related to the PPP application, as well as provide informational resources for businesses seeking assistance on EIDL, upcoming EIDL Advance, and SVO grant programs, and other resources tailored to small businesses. For a list of upcoming webinars on PPP and other programs, please visit DCEO’s page.   Below are some upcoming webinars next week hosted by Team RED and their registration links.

Date:  February 23, 2021
Time:  9:00 am
Presenter:  Aly Grady, Central Regional Manager for Regional Economic Development, DCEO and Fhernie Pedraza-Schmitt, US Small Business Administration
Registration Link:
Date:  February 24, 2021
Time:  10:30 am
Presenter:  Kim Watson, Southern Regional Manager for Regional Economic Development, DCEO and Darrah Perryman, US Small Business Administration
Registration Link:

Date: Wednesday, February 24, 2021
Time:  2:00 pm
Presenter:  Jonathan McGee, Deputy Director Regional Economic Development, DCEO and SBA District Director
Registration Link:

SBA Page Links for Direction and Questions on PPP

1st draw info:
First draw app:

2nd draw info:
Second draw app:

Finally, following up on the article above with the economic outlook news, we would like to announce our next virtual conference. It will take place on March 11th at 11 AM with John Ferguson, Senior Vice President & Senior Portfolio Manager with Northern Trust.

Economic Trends & Reopening of the Economy

  • History: Economic and Market Review through the Pandemic
  • Current Events: Market and Economic Signs that we are at an inflection point
  • Outlook for the Future: Is this a remake of the roaring 20’s?

Thursday, March 11, 2021 at 11:00 a.m. Register here:

Stay well,

Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry Staff and Board of Directors

Mike Paone
Vice President – Government Affairs
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry
815.727.5371 main
815.727.5373 direct